Saturday, April 30, 2011

Another Tool for The Tool Box

The following video is some footage I shot on Sunday April 24th while checking on our tarps as well as some footage from yesterday when we mowed the 13th green for the first time.

The crew and I have been monitoring the temperatures, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, as well as watching moisture and checking disease pressure under the tarps.  This will be a daily occurrence until the tarps have been removed.   It has been a long winter and it would be a shame to regress over the final few weeks.
The 13th green in the video clip is the first green that we applied black sand to encourage melting.  We purchased the black sand through one of our local distributors who obtain the sand through Grass Roots Agronomics in Idaho.  As of two weeks ago we have applied the sand to all 19 greens.  To date 16 of these greens are now 90% clear of snow.  We have also completed some side-by-side trials using black organic fertilizer and black sand.  I will try to get some pictures of those plots on the blog in the next few days.
This spring seems to be the perfect spring for using “melting methods” such as black sand as opposed to mechanical removal of the snow at Greywolf.  There is no frost in the ground and any moisture that occurs from melting runs directly into the root-zone.  
I believe black sand has budgetary advantages over mechanical methods of snow removal.   For Greywolf, there is less labour involved to apply black sand as opposed to snow blowing.  When you compare the labour to apply the black sand as oppose to having two to four staff remove snow with a walk behind snow blowers, the costs savings become apparent.   The cost of black sand and the labour to spread the sand are cheaper.  Mechanical removal requires more labour, higher fuel costs and also causes wear and tear on the equipment and the turf that is being cleared.  A further advantage of black sand is the lack of a snow bank surrounding the greens.

Example of Snow Melted by Black Sand on #12 Green

Snow Melted by Black Sand on #5 - accelerated melting of about 14"
Black sand is not the be all and end all.  There are a few disadvantages.  Application on top of the snow can be difficult.  After melting the snow, I have been concerned about the sand overheating the tarps and the turf underneath.  Although this spring extra heat has helped encourage growth!  To prevent this overheating we remove the sand on top of the tarp with back pack blowers.  A final disadvantage is the dye on the sand seems to stain the tarp.  We will hopefully be washing down the tarps before storage this summer.

Black sand seems to be the perfect melting tool for Greywolf this year.  As all superintendents know, no two years are the same.   My only concern with using black sand in the future would be applying it to non-tarped greens where the root-zone was frozen.  If this were the case, accelerated melting and the runoff that follows could cause crown hydration or add to an already existing build up of ice.  But if ice had occurred, mechanical removal of the snow and an application of black sand or a darkening agent, could be the answer to the problems.  This was the case of one at one of my colleague’s course last winter in Castlegar.    
 We have used black sand to remove snow year.  Last year we used it to remove ice.   I am confident that if the budget permits, I will always have black sand in my shed.    It is another tool in the “Superintendent’s Tool Box.”
 Now I just need to find enough black sand to cover the entire golf course!

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